“Twelve men under the age of 45 commit suicide per day. That’s 84 per week.”
Sunday 6th will undoubtedly be a huge day for relegation fighting Birmingham City. It could potentially be massive at the opposite end of the table too as Fulham strive to take ownership of the second automatic promotion spot. Both teams are likely to throw the kitchen sink at each other, leaving everything out there on the pitch by full time. They won’t be the only guys liable to be shattered by 2pm though as there’ll be a troop of Fulham fans in the away end that will have just completed a FOUR DAY walk from Craven Cottage to St Andrews. I spoke to organiser Lee Adams and fellow journeyman Bob O’Sullivan to find out why…
Mark: Forgive my ignorance, but what’s this all in aid of?
Bob: “In short, a group of Fulham fans are walking from Craven Cottage to St Andrews to highlight the huge increase in the suicide rates of males under 45.”
Mark: How did you get involved?
Bob: “I got involved in August last year when 8 Fulham fans walked to Reading. I saw it gathering interest on social media and met up with Lee. I got caught up by his passion and personal journey.”
I contacted Lee by phone in order to probe further and as Bob quite rightly points out, the first thing that struck me about the 33 year old father of two was his passion. Within minutes it was clear that Lee is a determined young man with a message that he’s spent the last 3 years trying to spread around the country from city to city and stadium to stadium. I began by asking Lee about his motivations.
Lee: “I tried taking my own life 9 years ago and I had nowhere to go. I thought my mates and my family wouldn’t accept it and they’d expect me to just sleep it off and keep a stiff upper lip. I didn’t know where to turn or what to do. I felt like a burden on people. I’d hit rock bottom but then I found CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)”
Over the last few years, Lee has walked and cycled to various away grounds in a bid to raise awareness for CALM. Having experienced severe depression himself, Lee set off on a fundraising mission that has seen him raise thousands of pounds for the mental health charity.
Lee: “Last Monday we walked to Reading from Fulham in pouring rain with some Reading fans. It took us 16 hours over night to walk the 51 miles and I genuinely want to get as many Birmingham fans involved as possible. CALM is such a wonderful charity and we can make a real difference.”
Mark: What prompted you to appeal to football fans?
Lee: “Twelve men under the age of 45 commit suicide per day. That’s 84 per week. I was in the ground and I looked around me at mostly men of a similar age group and I thought, I need to hit football.”
Lee has led the charge in putting the word out to fellow supporters as well as those of other clubs and it’s not uncommon for away fans and home fans to meet a few miles from the ground before marching to the finish line together.
Lee: “This is not about which team we support, this is about us as blokes and if what we’re doing helps just one Birmingham fan then that’s massive. The fan power and movement we’ve created through this is phenomenal, we’ve got so many people talking. I’d love as many Birmingham fans to join us as possible. In fact, bring a spare Blues shirt for me and I’ll stick it on!”
Setting off on Thursday, Lee will be joined by a fleet of Fulham fans as they make their way from Craven Cottage, through Dunstable, up past Daventry and on to Solihull where they hope to be joined by Bluenoses for the last leg of the 113 mile journey.
Lee: “It’s going to be a long old walk, we must be absolutely bonkers! I’m looking forward to it, but I’m nervous too because it’s so far. We’re going to complete it though, whether we like it or not. We’re not giving up! I hope that Birmingham fans can meet us and walk with us for the last 6 miles from Solihull to St Andrews. It’s going to be a long trek and it’s going to be tiring but together both sets of fans can make a real difference”
As a result of their hike from Fulham to Reading, Lee and his cohorts managed to raise a whopping £7000. For the Birmingham trip, the team have already raised £3500 before even taking a single step towards Small Heath. Last season Lee cycled to both Preston’s Deepdale and Wigan’s DW stadiums as well as arranging numerous donations from past and present players. Lee has transformed himself from a man at the lowest ebb who had barely ridden a bike in his life, to a fund raising, awareness campaigning machine. This is truly the Keep Right On spirit that we all love to sing about.
Lee: “My favourite football song is Keep Right On and that’s so relevant to what we’re doing, I love it. It’s the best football song in the world and it’s been playing on my mind a hell of a lot. I would well up if we were met by a load of Birmingham fans all singing Keep Right On as we complete the journey.”
After such an emotional and impassioned conversation with Lee, it felt almost redundant to ask him about such a trivial thing like the result on the day, so I turned back to Bob for his opinions.
Mark: How do you think the game will go and are there any key players Blues need to watch out for?
Bob: “3 – 0 to Fulham and I’d say this year, all of the players are ones to watch.”
Obviously I hope Bob is wrong but when everything is put into perspective, there really are bigger issues in the world than football. What’s great about the sport though is that it brings people from all over the country together for a common cause. Sure, more often than not we’re brought together to sing insults at each other and swear at a bunch of blokes on the pitch, but fan power should never be underestimated and the work being carried out by Lee and his team is testament to that.
As Lee said in the interview, it really would be one hell of a spectacle if a horde of Blues fans could walk side by side with some thoroughly knackered Fulham fans, each singing Keep Right On as they parade the streets. Mental health is a major issue and one that’s too easily swept under the carpet by ‘blokes being blokes’ who almost feel too prideful to discuss it openly. Talking about it is just the first step though and Lee has about 234 000 more to go…
For more information; follow Lee Adams (@matchwornshirt1) on Twitter. You can also visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/fulham2birminghamwalk to find out more information and to donate. For more information about CALM or if any of the issues in this article may be affecting you, please don’t hesitate to visit www.thecalmzone.net They are also on Twitter @theCALMzone
For anyone wanting to join Lee, please contact Lee Adams directly via social media channels or alternatively drop me a message on Twitter or Facebook.
Finally, my sincere thanks go out to both Bob and Lee for taking the time to talk to me and for the incredible work that the whole team has done over the past few seasons. As Shakespeare said, ‘Some men are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them.’ Well, perhaps Lee is all three…
“When Lee’s team walked the 38 miles to Reading in the pouring rain, they had a few Royals with them for the whole 16 hour trek and raised a collective £7000 for CALM. Are us Bluenoses going to be outdone by those wannabe Cockneys!? Pah!”
Blues fans have not had a whole lot to celebrate this year. Our likely relegation survival has been as exciting as it has traumatic and although we’ve had cause to celebrate over recent weeks, as a whole it’s been another dire season with more downs than ups and more behind the scenes bitchiness than the Big Brother house.
One thing that has been phenomenal though is our fans. It’s a long, long road full of joys and sorrows but we’ve always been there. When Zola was clutching at straws and wearing his bravest of faces, there we were. When Redknapp ran around the country like Del Trotter chasing lorries with dodgy locks, we sang his name. When Cotterill left the farm and headed up to the big city lights only to find that the roads were paved with banana skins rather than golden bricks, we begrudgingly continued to show up. Now with the Monk revival in full swing, we’re filling the stands and singing louder and longer than ever. Our away following has been consistently outstanding and we’ve frequently sold out our ticket allocations no matter how big or QPR they are.
Regardless of performances on the pitch, Bluenoses have been absolutely fantastic off of it and now we have a chance to prove once more why we’re the greatest fans in this country.
As I reported on last week, Lee Adams and his fellow tribe of Fulham fanatics are currently preparing for their 113 mile walk to St Andrews. I say “walk” but in all honesty if I found myself in West London, I think I’d be sprinting out of there so I assume they will too.
The guys and girls are taking on this incredible challenge in order to raise money for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). For more information on Lee’s story, please click *here* to read my recent interview with the man himself.
Over a 4 day period, the team will be heading to Dunstable, Daventry, Solihull and Small Heath whilst tackling approximately 35 miles of terrain per day, all on foot. The final leg of the journey will be from Solihull to St Andrews, and that’s where us Blues fans come in.
When Lee’s team walked the 38 miles to Reading in the pouring rain, they had a few Royals with them for the whole 16 hour trek and raised a collective £7000 for CALM. Are us Bluenoses going to be outdone by those wannabe Cockneys!? Pah!
We’re not suggesting that Blues fans attempt the entire journey – especially with little to no training under their belts, but the last leg is certainly doable. It’s about 6 miles from Solihull to St Andrews and it would be one hell of a scene if Birmingham fans could meet up with the Fulham crew and march together in unison to the promise land.
For this reason, BCFC Followers and BCFC Report are launching our #Solihull2Stans campaign to help promote the final jaunt of the #Fulham2BirminghamWalk. Lee and his cohorts will be aiming to leave St John’s Hotel, 651 Warwick Road, Solihull at approx 8am on Sunday morning. I’ll be there and I’ll be dragging fellow BCFC Followers Ceire Francis and her son along with me (whether they like it or not). It would be amazing to see some more Blues fans alongside us!
Lee anticipates that the Sunday morning stroll will take around 2 hours to complete (2 and a half for a fatty like me) so we’ll be arriving at the ground will plenty of time to freshen up and get ready for a final day of football in which we should hopefully find ourselves with nothing left to play for.
We will also be joined by Tomos who will walk in representation of Stepping Stones Global – a local mental health fundraising and event planning organisation. Tomos and his team offer help to adults with anxiety and depression in the Birmingham and Solihull area and you can find him @BlueSkyNoClouds on Twitter. There’ll be more about Tomos and his fantastic work next week, so watch this space for more information.
If anyone would like to help fund Lee’s madness, his Just Giving page is up and running right now. Lee’s page has already reached the £5000 mark before the guys have even taking a step towards the second (but greatest) city. Their overall target is £10000 and it’s edging nearer and nearer each day. We ask on behalf of Lee, his fellow walkers and CALM that Blues fans get involved with this amazing cause and continue to show the world why no matter where the team are in the league, our fans are always at the top.
Whether it’s a tenner or ten pence, every little bit helps and no donation is too small. Men’s mental health and rates of suicide are subjects that have been taboo topics of conversation for far too long. Together, we can and will make a difference.
For more information on how to get involved, contact myself, BCFC Followers or BCFC Report through social media. You can follow Lee’s story on Twitter @matchwornshirt1 and his Just Giving page is www.justgiving.com/fundraising/fulham2birminghamwalk
For more information about CALM or if any of the issues in this article may be affecting you, please don’t hesitate to visit www.thecalmzone.net They are also on Twitter @theCALMzone
By Mark Watson